Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pat O’Leary: “Bravest of the brave”

1. Dr. Albert Guérisse, wife Sylvia and son Patrick
[Albert Guérisse became “Pat O’Leary” in WW2]
(Image from DVD films featuring Dr. Albert Guérisse)
Courtesy of Dr. Patrick Guérisse, Belgium
2. Still from a 1963 BBC “This is Your Life”: 
Albert Guérisse / Patrick O’Leary was the subject
The programme’s presenter was Eamonn Andrews
Courtesy of Dr. Patrick Guérisse, Belgium
3. A man with more than one identity:   
(Left): Lt.-Cmndr. Patrick A. O’Leary, Royal Navy
(Right): Col. Albert-Marie E. Guérisse, Belgian Army 
Courtesy of Dr. Patrick Guérisse, Belgium
4. Traitors of the ‘PAT’ Escape and evasion network:
(Left): Harold (‘Paul’) Cole
(Right): Roger le Neveu (‘Le Legionnaire’)
Courtesy of Dr. Patrick Guérisse, Belgium  
5. Some guests on Pat O'Leary's "This is Your Life”
(Clockwise, from top left):
Fabien de Cortes, M.M., Croix de Guerre
Louis Nouveau, G.M., Legion d’Honneur, Croix de Guerre
Lieutenant Colonel James Maydon Langley, M.B.E., M.C
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Grant Garrow, D.S.O.
Original images courtesy of:
Dr Patrick Guérisse / Cumbria County Archives
6. Thomas (Tom) Groome, wireless operator
[He was imprisoned with Pat O’Leary in Dachau]
Courtesy of Dr. Patrick Guérisse, Belgium
7. An historic and enthusiastic surprise reunion:
Ian Garrow (left) meets Pat O’Leary (right)
It was the first time they had met since the war
Courtesy of Dr. Patrick Guérisse, Belgium
For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Introduction: “This is Your Life”

“This is Your Life” was a biographical documentary television series that was devised by the American broadcaster Ralph Edwards. It developed from a radio programme that began in 1948. The first American television broadcast was on NBC in October 1952. A British version of the show began on BBC television in 1955. The first ‘subject’ on the British version of the series was the Irish born sports commentator and television presenter Eamonn Andrews who became the show’s presenter from the second show onwards.

The format of “This is Your Life” was relatively simple and remained the same throughout its long run. At the beginning of each show the featured guest subject was surprised by the presenter, who then took them through key moments in their life, or a key part of their life for which they were being honoured, in front of a studio audience. Specially invited guests, such as family, friends and colleagues of the subject appeared to build up the life story of the subject. One by one the invited guests would recall key experiences and adventures of the subject, which could be profound and very emotional

At the end of the episode, the subject would be given a ‘Big Red Book’ summarising their life story in tributes and photographs. Sometimes, the subject was also given a souvenir copy of the broadcast.

A season of “This is Your Life” appeared on BBC television each year from 1955 until 1964. In 1969, the programme was revived for British television by ITV. Eamonn Andrews presented “This is Your Life” on ITV until his sudden death in 1987, when Michael Aspel took over the role. The show continued to be broadcast on ITV until 1994 when it transferred back to BBC television until 2003. In 2007 a one-off special of “This is Your Life” was shown on ITV, the subject being the entertainment guru, Simon Cowell.

Over the years, the subjects whose lives were featured on the British version of “This is Your Life” included singers, dancers, film and theatre stars, sports men and women, and occasionally seemingly ordinary men and women who had done something outstanding, such as charity workers. Military life and wartime service was a recurring theme for many of the subjects featured on the British version of “This is Your Life”, such as Major Pat Reid (who escaped from the notorious Colditz POW camp), Brigadier Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat (who commanded the 1st Special Service Brigade on D-Day, 6 June 1944) and Yvonne Cormeau (SOE ‘F’ Section WW2 agent).

In November 1963, one of the subjects surprised by Eamonn Andrews for “This is Your Life” was Albert Guérisse, alias “Pat O’Leary”, at the time a Colonel in the Belgian army. During WW2 Colonel Guérisse had been the leader of an escape and evasion network in N.W. Europe and had been awarded the George Cross (G.C.) and the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.). In fact, the story was such a remarkable one, even for “This is Your Life”. For the first time in the programme’s history the life story of the subject could not be told in the usual half hour episode. Thus, the story of “Pat O’Leary” was told in two parts over consecutive weeks.

Colonel Guérisse’s story was recorded at the TV studio on 4 November 1963 in front of a studio audience. The first part was broadcast on 28 November 1963 and the second part the following week, on 5 December. Let us now look at this great wartime story of Albert Guerisse, alias “Pat O’Leary”, the leader of some of the “Bravest of the brave” of the Second World War.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The man with at least three names

Dr Patrick Guérisse, the son of Colonel (later Major-General Albert Guérisse) still has the family copy of the “This is Your Life” programme and the souvenir ‘Big Red Book’ given to his father in 1963. In fact, Dr Patrick Guérisse, who was a schoolboy at the time, appeared in the programme along with his mother and paternal grandmother (see below). A DVD from the Guérisse family collection, with a photograph of Dr Albert Guérisse, his wife Sylvia and son Patrick, is shown above [Photograph No. 1].

The opening credits of the British version of ‘This is Your Life’ included a camera shot of the sky above the clouds superimposed with the name of the programme and the presenter, Eamonn Andrews [Photograph No. 2]. This article is largely based on the Guérisse family collection, plus other documents and photographs donated to the Cumbria County Archives and Local Studies Centre as well as the official BBC Archives transcription of the recording.

There are actually some discrepancies in what the invited guests are heard to say on film and the BBC’s written transcript. This can probably be accounted for by the fact there was a ‘first run through’ and then a ‘dress rehearsal’ before the recording of the show which, as has already been noted, was broadcast over two episodes.

Albert-Marie Edmond Guérisse, was born at Molenbeek, a district of Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday 5 April 1911. At the time the ‘This is Your Life’ programme was recorded Colonel Albert Guérisse was visiting London with his wife, Sylvia. They were accompanying the military and naval attaché from the Belgian embassy on a visit to the BBC studios and sitting in the audience when Eamonn Andrews ‘surprised’ the somewhat bewildered Colonel Albert Guérisse.

According to the programme’s credits the research into the wartime experiences of Dr Albert Guérisse (Pat O’Leary) was carried out by Alan Haire and the framework story written by Peter Moore. Pat O’Leary’s story, as it was gradually unveiled during the programme, was told by Pat’s colleagues, friends, family and sometimes by Eamonn Andrews asking ‘Pat’ about certain events.

Who was this man that many hundreds of Britons might recognise from their time in Nazi-occupied France? This may have been in a Paris attic, an apartment in Marseilles, on a mountainside in the Pyrenees or on a Mediterranean beach? Some might have known him as Joseph Cartier, others as Pat O’Leary and yet his real name was Albert-Marie Guérisse. For this was a man with more than one identity, two of which can be seen in photograph No. 3., which was used by ‘This is Your Life’ in 1964. On the left is Lieutenant-Commander Pat O’Leary, R.N. and on the right is Colonel Albert-Marie Guérisse, Belgian Army.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

An Escape and Evasion network for Allied soldiers and airmen

In 1940, Dr Albert-Marie Guérisse was serving in the Belgian Army with the rank of Lieutenant. After the Germans invaded Belgium and France in May 1940, Lieutenant Guérisse was among the Belgian contingent forced to withdraw towards the Channel ports and was evacuated to Britain on 1 June 1940.

The Belgian soldiers were sent back to France to continue the fight. But, not for very long because the battle for France was lost. Lieutenant Guérisse and other Belgian servicemen were ordered to surrender. Yet, a small group of about thirteen Belgian officers refused to accept defeat and managed to board a British cargo ship at Sète on the French Mediterranean coast and were evacuated to Gibraltar.

It was at Gibraltar that this small group of Belgian army officers came across another ship, a French cargo vessel by the name of SS ‘Le Rhin’. It proved to be a significant turning point in the lives of these Belgian officers. ‘Le Rhin’ was converted to become a Royal Navy vessel (HMS Fidelity). Several of the aforementioned Belgian army officers changed their identities and joined Fidelity’s crew as Royal Navy officers. It was at this time that Lieutenant Albert-Marie Guérisse ceased to exist for the duration of the war and became Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Albert O’Leary (Pat O’Leary) [Photograph No. 3 (left)]. He became second-in-command of HMS Fidelity.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Joining up with Ian Garrow in France

HMS Fidelity (D57) was a Special Service Vessel, and in its early days was a ‘Q’ ship working closely with the newly created Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.). One of Fidelity’s main roles was to embark and disembark S.O.E. agents between Gibraltar and Occupied France. On the night of Friday 25 April 1941, HMS Fidelity was disguised as a Brazilian steamer off the south coast of France and Pat O’Leary went ashore in a skiff (a small fishing boat) disguised as a local fisherman, dropped off some agents and intended to bring back other agents escaping from France.

Except, Pat O’Leary never made it back to Fidelity that night: the skiff overturned and he was obliged to swim back to the shore where he was arrested by the Vichy authorities and interned at the prison of St Hippolyte-du-Fort. However, the ‘French Canadian’ Lieutenant-Commander Pat O’Leary of the Royal Navy was not imprisoned for very long because within a few weeks he had escaped. Although his first thoughts, and what he believed to be his duty, was to make his way back to Britain, but fate took a hand when he met a British Army officer who was getting to grips organising an escape and evasion network for Allied servicemen: Captain Ian Grant Garrow of the 51st Highland Division.

When he realised that Lieutenant-Commander O’Leary was a fluent French speaker, Captain Ian Garrow tried to persuade him to remain in France to help with what would become one of the best known escape and evasion networks in history. This is how “Pat O’Leary” explained it to Eamonn Andrews during the recording of his “This is Your Life” programme:

“Well, in fact, Ian Garrow had escaped from the remains, I should say, of the 51st Highland Division after the destruction of the 51st Highland Division by the Germans. And Ian Garrow had come down to Marseilles and had, of course, tried himself to find a way back to this country. But he had been well, shocked you know, with the great amount of British soldiers who were in southern France. So, his idea was to set up an escape organisation in order to help his fellow soldiers, you know, to get out.”

The extra assistance of Pat O’Leary was sanctioned by M.I.9 in London and ‘Pat O’Leary’ assumed the civilian identity of ‘Joseph Cartier’! The escape and evasion network grew from strength to strength, particularly for aircrew. Airmen who had been shot down in France, Belgium or the Netherlands began to arrive back in Britain via Gibraltar with tales of how a secret army of men and women had hidden them in their homes, escorted them southwards on the French railways where they were either evacuated by sea or escorted across the Pyrenees to Spain. This escape and evasion network would eventually be known to posterity as the ‘PAO’ or ‘PAT’ line after “Pat O’Leary”, For it was Pat who took over as leader after Ian Garrow was captured and imprisoned by the Vichy authorities.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Success and Betrayal

Captain Ian Garrow was arrested by the Vichy authorities in October 1941 but his case did not come to trial until May 1942. In the interim period, Captain Garrow was able to receive visitors one of whom was Madame Nancy Fiocca, also known as Nancy Wake, the ‘White Mouse’. So avert suspicion for the reason for the visits, Nancy Fiocca claimed to be Ian Garrow’s cousin.

Until November 1942, the French Unoccupied Zone governed from Vichy was free of German troops. Following the Allied invasion of North Africa (‘Operation Torch’) beginning on 8 November 1942, the situation in Vichy-controlled France also changed. On 11 November 1942 German troops moved into most of the previously Unoccupied Zone, with the Italians occupying the remaining part of the zone.

It began to look increasingly likely that Captain Ian Garrow would be transferred to a prison in Germany. Pat O’Leary decided it was time to act and hatched a plot for Ian Garrow to escape and return to Britain. By this time, Ian Garrow was imprisoned at Mauzac in Dordogne to the S.W. of Toulouse. Nancy Fiocca visited Ian Garrow at the prison, and was accompanied to Mauzac by Pat O’Leary impersonating Nancy’s husband, Henri Fiocca.

The plan of escape was basically as simple as it could be: for Ian Garrow to walk out of the main gates dressed as a guard. One of the ‘PAT’ line workers based in Toulouse, Paul Ullmann (“The Tailor”), made the required uniform for Ian Garrow. Outside the prison walls, Pat O’Leary paid a bribe to one of the Mauzac prison guards and the uniform was smuggled into Mauzac prison. On 6 December 1942, Ian Garrow changed into the prison guard’s uniform and walked out of the main gates, where he was met by a small group of helpers led by Pat O’Leary.

For a while, Ian Garrow was hidden by the redoubtable Marie-Louise Dissard (‘Françoise’) at Toulouse before being guided across the Pyrenees, on to Gibraltar by 5 February 1943 and then flown back home to Britain. The operation had been a complete success. A few weeks later, in May 1943, Captain Ian Garrow was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for his efforts with the escape and evasion network.

Yet, back in Occupied Europe it was not all success for the network, for the network was betrayed not just by one traitor but two. as betrayed not just by one traitor but two. Their names were Harold (“Paul”) Cole, a British criminal who betrayed many of the network’s helpers in northern France and Roger le Neveu (“The Legionnaire”) who helped the Gestapo arrest Pat O’Leary and many key members of the network in southern France. Photograph No. 4 shows Harold Cole (left) and Roger le Neveu (right).

Both Harold Cole and Roger le Neveu met with violent and inglorious ends. Harold Cole was shot dead by the French police after the war while Roger le Neveu was executed by the ‘Maquis’ (French Resistance).

Once Pat O’Leary was in the hands of the Gestapo they subjected him to the severe and prolonged torture in an attempt to extract the names and other details of the escape and evasion network. Pat endured the torture and revealed nothing. This fact was referred to in his George Cross citation, as quoted by Eamonn Andrews during the “This is Your Life” programme:

“His sustained personal bravery is beyond praise, his loyalty and courage in the face of severe and long drawn-out torture has received ample proof, for no single member of his organisation came to any harm as a result of his arrest. He gave nothing away at any time ...”

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Family memories of ‘Pat’ on “This is Your Life”

Three of Pat O’Leary’s family made guest appearances on the “This is Your Life” programme: his mother (Madame Guérisse), his wife (Madame Sylvia Guérisse) and his son (Patrick Junior, now Dr Patrick Guérisse). What was their contribution?

In December 1941, Pat was visiting the north of France and made a brief visit to his home city of Brussels, Belgium. He knocked on the door of 16, rue Eugène Smits, which at that time was the home of his parents. For a short time, Pat became Albert-Marie Guérisse again. He stayed over for just one night and explained little. His parents had not seen or heard from him since the Dunkirk evacuation and, as it turned out, would not hear from him again until after the war.

Pat, or Albert, was “… doing a little work for the British”. According to Madame Guérisse, when her son left he took just two things with him: a clean handkerchief and a clean shirt. Doubtless, Pat also took something else with him that morning: the prayers and love of his mother and father.

Pat’s wife, Madame Sylvia Guérisse, who had worked for British Intelligence during the war, explained to Eamonn Andrews how she only met her future husband at the end of the war:

“I heard stories about a certain Pat O’Leary whom I had never met. And in Paris I heard a lot more about him.”

In 1945, while based in Paris, they had heard that Pat O’Leary had been sent to Dachau but still did not know if he was alive or dead. Then, one day, there was a phone call that someone arrived at the airport with some British officers and one American officer as Madame Sylvia Guérisse went on to explain:

“They had come from Dachau. And then, eventually I got the name Pat O’Leary on the phone the whole office went crazy and we sent our car for them.”

That was the first time Pat and Sylvia met. Despite being, to everyone else, a British Naval officer, Pat hardly spoke any English! At formal receptions they attended, Pat would say “Yes” to just about everything people would say to him, after which he would ask Sylvia what he had said “Yes” to!

The third member of Pat’s family to take part in the “This is Your Life” programme was Patrick Junior, son of Pat and Sylvia. Patrick Junior explained to Eamonn Andrews why his full name was Patrick Louis Guérisse:

“The Patrick is after my father, of course, and the Louis is after my godfather – Louis Nouveau. … He worked with my father during the war. He was a very important person.”

Louis Nouveau was one of the members of the escape and evasion network who contributed in telling the remarkable Pat O’Leary story for “This is Your Life”, as explained below.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Pat O’Leary's story as told by his wartime comrades

Who could tell Pat O’Leary’s wartime story better than the comrades who worked with him on the escape and evasion network? The researchers for Pat’s “This is Your Life” programme managed to obtain personal testimonies from several surviving members of the PAT line, as well as Pat’s main M.I.9 London contact, Colonel Jimmy Langley.

Some of those who appeared in Pat O’Leary’s “This is Your Life” programme can be seen in photograph No. 5: Ian Garrow, Jimmy Langley, Fabien de Cortes and Louis Nouveau. Another of those who appeared on Pat’s “This is Your Life” was Thomas (Tom) Groome [Photograph No. 6]. Tom Groome was sent to France to work as a wireless operator for the PAT line. Pat O’Leary, Fabien de Cortes, Louis Nouveau and Tom Groome were all captured by the Germans and spent time in concentration camps in Germany.

What did they tell of Pat O’Leary? This is what we shall look at next.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Jimmy Langley speaks about Pat O’Leary

Colonel Jimmy Langley [Photograph No. 5 (bottom right)] served with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, part of the B.E.F. in France in 1940. At that time, Jimmy Langley had the rank of lieutenant. Seriously wounded just before the evacuation, he was left behind in France and had his left arm amputated by a German doctor. Nevertheless, Jimmy Langley escaped from the “Catho”, a P.O.W. hospital at Lille, and eventually made his way to Marseille. It was at Marseille where Jimmy Langley met Ian Garrow and for a time worked as a courier for the escape and evasion network.

In early 1941, Jimmy Langley was declared unfit for military service by Dr George Rodocanachi, another member of the escape and evasion network and was repatriated to Britain. He left Gibraltar on 7 March 1941 and arrived in Britain on 21 March 1941. It will be remembered that Pat O’Leary was stranded in France on 25 April 1941, so the two men did not meet until a later date.

Upon return to Britain, Jimmy Langley was recruited by the British Secret Intelligence Service and became liaison officer between M.I.6 and M.I.9, becoming the main London link for the escape and evasion networks in N.W. Europe. He was promoted firstly to war-substantive captain in October 1943 and then acting lieutenant-colonel in January 1944.

Hence, after the arrest of Ian Garrow, and Pat O’Leary had become head of the escape and evasion network, Jimmy Langley was Pat’s main London contact. After a time, Jimmy Langley was sent out to Gibraltar and Pat O’Leary made his way there to meet him for the first time. Even though they had never met, Jimmy Langley picked Pat out in a crowded hotel room straight away, because Pat “… had such a terrific personality – he simply stood out.”

Jimmy Langley went on to explain to Eamonn Andrews what they talked about during this first meeting in Gibraltar:

“… Pat indicated to us how we could help him – by sending him wireless operators, money as always, many other things. … I’m not quite certain it was news to him but we were very worried in England about how much the Gestapo knew about him! Of course, he could quite easily have said, “If that’s true, I’ll come back to England with you”. But, needless to say, being Pat he didn’t! And time and time again I ordered him out of France and the reply was always the same, “I’m in the field and you’re not”. Incidentally, I think Pat is the only British officer who ever received the notification of the award of the D.S.O. while working in enemy territory by secret radio. … I sent the signal!”

With regards to Pat O’Leary’s personal character, Jimmy Langley also told Eamonn Andrews about a letter and a special gift sent by Pat O’Leary from France during the war:

“I have a letter here from Pat. It’s full of news and chit-chat from France. But, what I like best is the postscript which says, ‘I’m sending you a bottle of champagne’. He did, and my wife and myself drank it at our wedding and needless to say, Pat, we drank to your health!”

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Fabien de Cortes speaks about Pat O’Leary

Fabien de Cortes [Photograph No. 5 (top left)], was one of the youngest helpers in the PAT escape and evasion network. Nevertheless, he was one of Pat’s most trusted colleagues. In December 1942 Fabien de Cortes had been one of the small group of trusted helpers that Pat had taken with him to wait for Ian Garrow when he made his escape from Mauzac prison.

Along with Pat O’Leary and several others, Fabien de Cortes was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo in early 1943 but, as with Pat O’Leary, withstood the torture without revealing anything. On 29 April 1943, Pat O’Leary, the 19-year-old Fabien de Cortes and other prisoners were being transferred from Marseille to Fresnes prison, Paris. During the journey Pat decided that Fabien should escape from the train and give vital information to the British Secret Service and the members of the network still at liberty.

With the German guards distracted, Fabien de Cortes jumped out of a window of the train and ran off with some vital information:

“Pat told me all the names of the traitors, the aggressors, the agents known by the Gestapo and what was unknown and perfectly set in the organisation.”

Could Pat O’Leary have escaped himself? Fabien de Cortes believed Pat could have escaped but did not do so because the Germans would have taken it out on the other prisoners in their custody. This is how Fabien de Cortes explained it to Eamonn Andrews:

“He also felt that his own escape would mean serious reprisals against the other agents. All the same, he did what he could to save the other members not yet arrested.”

Fabien made it to Lyon and sent word to ‘Françoise’ (Marie-Louise Dissard) in Toulouse to meet with him at Lyon and explain Pat’s ideas for the continuation of the network. From Lyon, Fabien and ‘Françoise’ travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with the British Vice-Consul, Victor Farrell (‘Tonton François’) and arrange for the continued funding of the escape and evasion network. The network would continue much as it had done before but it would now be headed by the formidable 61-year-old ‘Françoise’ (born 6 November 1881).

Unfortunately for Fabien de Cortes, he was not at liberty for long and was sent to Fresnes prison where, once again, he was with Pat O’Leary:

“Unfortunately, I was arrested again on the Spanish border and we were together again in the prison at Fresnes. But, I was able to inform him that the réseau (i.e. the escape and evasion network) was not dead and that Francoise, the marvellous Francoise, which was marvellous for all of us, was taking it over.”

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Louis Nouveau speaks about Pat O’Leary

Louis Nouveau [Photograph No. 5 (top right)] was one of Pat O’Leary’s most important and trusted agents in the escape and evasion network, where he was known as “St Jean”. As Patrick Junior explained to Eamonn Andrews, Louis Nouveau was his godfather. Monsieur Nouveau was one of the network betrayed to the Gestapo by Roger le Neveu (‘Roger le Legionnaire’) and spent time at Fresnes prison, Paris and in German concentration camps.

Louis Nouveau’s tribute to Pat O’Leary for “This is Your Life” began with a recording filmed at ‘Le Petit Poucet’, Marseille with other surviving members of the ‘PAT’ line still living in the city at that time (1963). The café which was the centre of much of the network’s activities in Marseille until the betrayals by Roger le Neveu and the subsequent arrests by the Gestapo decimated the network in that area.

Among those who sent a personal greeting from ‘Le Petit Poucet’ were Monsieur and Madame Martin and Monsieur Henri Dijon and Madame Alexandrine Dijon. Pat’s good health was toasted with champagne.

Louis Nouveau made the journey to London to represent the ‘PAT’ line survivors in Marseille. One of the things he spoke of was Pat’s incredible generosity:

“Well, there is one thing I want to say. It has not been referred to. On top of your indomitable courage they haven’t got is your incredible generosity. You had no, nothing on you. We gave you an overcoat. You gave it to somebody else. Then we produced another overcoat. Next week you gave it to another helper! Then, after that, the next month we managed to get you another overcoat – and again you gave it somebody else … and a pair of shoes!”

On a more poignant note, Louis Nouveau also recalled the time they had spent in the German concentration camps, the atrocities that were perpetrated in the camps and their friends who had suffered and died:

“Pat, most people say that the war is over. Oh, how they want to forget it. They want to ignore it. But you and I, can we? … Can we forget the atrocities of the Nazi camps for thousands, the worst where you’ve been? … Buchenwald? The rest? … Then tell me, tell me – can you forget our friends?”

To these questions, a sombre Pat answered he could certainly never forget.

Louis Nouveau also paid tribute their absent friends many of whom were dead and others, who due to ill health and infirmity were unable to attend the tribute to Pat. He went on to pay a special tribute to two friends who should never be forgotten, Ian Garrow and Françoise Dissard:

“Many are dead. But, there are few remaining, very few. But of these few, as you know fewer have been able to come.

There are two people, Pat, we must, I must mention and we mustn’t forget. The first is Ian Garrow who was a Captain, who started the job. Without him we wouldn’t have done what we’ve done. And after you, after your fantastic leading, Françoise Dissard.”

Louis asked Pat if it had to be done again, would they do it again? Yes, if necessary, they would do it all again.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Tom Groome speaks about Pat O’Leary

Thomas (Tom) Groome [Photograph No. 6] was an Australian but had a French mother and consequently was a fluent French speaker. His contribution to Pat O’Leary’s “This is Your Life” story was recorded in Australia and relayed to Pat and the studio audience. By January 1943, Tom Groome, alias ‘Georges de Milleville’, was the ‘PAT’ line’s last wireless operator. On 11 January he was picked up by the Gestapo in Montauban along with another PAT line agent, Mlle. Danielle Reddé, alias ‘Eddy’. They were taken to the Gestapo headquarters in Toulouse (the Hotel de l’Ours Blanc) for questioning.

During the questioning, Tom Groome made an audacious, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to escape by jumping through the closed second floor window and then running away. However, his escape attempt did prove enough of a distraction to allow ‘Eddy’ to just walk out of the building and escape! Tom Groome was subsequently sent to Fresnes and then the concentration camps at Natzweiller, Mauthausen and Dachau.

As part of his tribute to Pat O’Leary, Tom Groome gave an account of how they managed to make radio contact between Marseille and London and, at the same time, fool the Gestapo:

“Hello Pat, it’s nice to hear from you again after all this time. Well I’ve come here today to recount some of our anecdotes which happened to us.

It seems now like a long time ago in France. You had just been to Switzerland and passed the heavily guarded Swiss countryside and come back to Marseille. So we met in a café and I explained to you that I had just arrived to become the second in command of your organisation.

Shortly after that, we went to the flat of Dr. Rodocanachi and with a little bit of impertinence did something which kept the Germans guessing for quite a little while. We got into dungarees and clambered out of a window and climbed up to the back terrace of the Gestapo and we hung our radio transmitting aerial from the back terrace of the Gestapo in Marseilles. Can you believe it? We got back into the flat with a couple of info meters, connected up our transmitting set and tapped away and established what had been for quite a long time the first radio contact between us and London.”

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The Unexpected Guest

It was often the case with “This is Your Life” to bring on an unexpected guest as the climax to the show. This is what happened in the tribute to Pat O’Leary. Who could it be?

‘Francoise’ (Marie-Louise Dissard) had died in 1957 so she could not be Pat’s unexpected guest. It turned out to be a man who Pat believed was also dead, yet someone whose own story would ever be linked with that of Pat O’Leary: Colonel Ian Grant Garrow, M.C.! In fact, Ian Garrow lived O

For the first time since the war Pat O’Leary met Ian Garrow and the pair shook hands [Photograph No. 7]. Pat greeted his wartime comrade as follows:

“Ian! It’s so many years since I’ve seen you! My God. I am so pleased.”

With this historic meeting, Eamonn Andrews drew this tribute to Colonel Albert Guérisse, alias Pat O’Leary to a close and handed over the ‘Big Red Book’ summarising the programme. It is still in the possession of Dr Patrick Guérisse (Patrick Junior).

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


As explained in the Introduction, this story of Pat O’Leary was such a remarkable one that for the first time in the history of the programme it was told over two weeks. In summing up the story of Pat O’Leary Eamonn Andrews said that “… tonight we’ve kept company with the bravest of the brave, and through them – told the story of one man - their leader.”

Dr Albert-Marie Guérisse continued serving with the Belgian Army until his retirement in 1970. By this time, he had attained the rank of Major-General.

Even in 1963, he was one of the most decorated soldiers of all time and in his lifetime received at 35 decorations from several nations. Out of his affection for Britain and the British Major-General Guérisse always wore his British decorations first. He also received an honorary knighthood (K.B.E) from Britain. In 1986, King Baudouin of Belgium granted him a peerage, and Dr Albert-Marie Guérisse became a Count. His Latin motto is typical of this remarkable man:
‘Honores non quaero, fidelis sum’
(‘Honours I do not seek, faithful I am’)

Count Albert-Marie Guérisse passed away at Waterloo, Belgium, a short distance from Brussels on Sunday 26 March 1989, aged 77. His wife, Madame Sylvia Guérisse had predeceased him. The wartime years he spent as “Pat O’Leary” will always be remembered.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”
[Joan of Arc / Jeanne d’Arc during her trial at Rouen, 1431]
This article is dedicated to Count Albert-Marie Guérisse / Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Albert O’Leary, G.C., D.S.O., R.N. It is also dedicated to the courageous secret army of men and women of the escape and evasion networks of N.W. Europe during WW2, often working with little recognition or reward and at great personal risk.

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


Dr Patrick L. Guérisse,

Cumbria County Archives and Local Studies Centre,
Scotch Street, Whitehaven,
Cumbria CA28 7NL.

"This is Your Life: Albert Guerisse (Pat O'Leary)"
BBC Archives (Ref. TE4 / D421 / 471 / 14308)
Two-part episode: broadcast 28/11/1963 and 05/12/1963
(Recorded Monday 04/11/1963)
Technology Division, BBC
BBC Written Archives Centre,
Caversham Park,
Reading. RG4 8TZ

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Selected further reading

For additional information about Pat O’Leary / Albert-Marie Guérisse and the escape and evasion networks of N.W. Europe, click on the following links:

True Tales of the wartime escape networks

An Escape Line George Cross (Pat O’Leary, G.C.)

WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society (Pat O’Leary Line)

Sunday, 29 May, 2016  

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